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The importance of Māori identity for athletes and sportspeople within sporting contexts

Identity is an important concept within psychology given its influence upon how we perceive ourselves, who we are as people, and how it can impact behaviour. For Māori, colonisation has had a detrimental impact on the maintenance and flourishing of a strong cultural identity. Sport is an area where Māori have not only contributed successfully nationally and internationally alongside Pakeha, but have been able to either affirm or rebuild their sense of cultural identity and connectedness. The purpose of this thesis is to examine the importance of Māori identity for athletes and sports people within a sporting context. This research project encompassed a qualitative approach, drawing upon a kaupapa Māori research paradigm. Semi-structured interviews were employed to ascertain in depth knowledge of participant’s experiences. A total of six participants took part in this study, all of whom were made up of athletes, coaches, and sports psychologists. When interpreting participants understanding of Māori identity within a sporting context, participants indicated a desire to configure their Māori identity based on Māori cultural concepts such as whakapapa, manaakitanga, and pēpeha. The key findings also identified a link between Māori identity and sport as participants illustrated how important Māori identity was within their sports team and organisation. Participants also indicated an unconscious link to enhanced sporting behaviours given the essence of Māori identity and the significance it places on serving the collective. Ultimately, for Māori athletes and sports people, the sporting realm offers an opportunity to engage and reaffirm Māori identity. Additionally, the value sporting teams and organisations place on Māori identity, can lead to flourishing in sport given the behaviours that may transpire by connecting the individual beyond purely, the physical domain.
Type of thesis
The University of Waikato
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